A day after a fire broke out in Bengaluru’s Bellandur lake, smoke continued to billow even as ministers and civic officials continued to maintain silence over the issue.
Visuals of the fire were aired on national television channels on Friday night but in spite of that, no minister is yet to publicly respond to the questions raised surrounding the incident.
The lake has previously caught fire in the last two years and the story repeated itself on Friday when the water on the Yemlur side of the Bellandur lake caught fire, and by evening, spread to other parts of the lake causing residents in the area to panic.
More than a day after Bellandur lake caught fire, smoke continues to billow out of the surface. pic.twitter.com/GcwPNCnIhr— Soumya Chatterjee (@Csoumya21) January 20, 2018
The fire was doused after an extensive operation that continued until the early hours of Saturday morning and involved 5,000 army personnel in addition to firefighters. “The fire was doused and efforts are underway to identify where the smoke is coming from and to contain it,” said Ramesh, Director of Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services (KFES) department.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday morning, LT Gen Vipan Gupta said that the army sentry had first spotted the fire around 12:30pm (Friday afternoon), spreading towards defence land. They swung into action immediately to contain the fire. "Upon reaching the lake bed, we saw firemen on the ground. We coordinated with the fire officials, it was a joint exercise. There was no casualty on any side. Only one of our men was bitten by a snake, but he is fine now."
"At a single point of time, there were 700-800 army personnel battling the fire. We had also informed the civil administration," he added.
Officials at the fire department admitted that the fire was difficult to contain due to marshy areas in and around the lake. They also pointed out that unpredictable winds hindered efforts to contain the fire.
While the fire appeared to have subsided on Friday afternoon, a fresh burst of fire was reported in the evening which led to 12 fire engines and 50 firefighters arriving at the spot to combat the fire.
What causes this?
According to fire officials on the ground, recurring fires are due to multiple layers of garbage in the lake bed. "Even if the fire is out on the surface, the underlying heat can lead to a spark elsewhere. Efforts are on to cool down the entire area, so there is no fire again," a senior fireman told TNM.
‘Residents’ complaints go unheard’
Opposition members and residents of Bellandur area expressed their displeasure after the recurring issue of lake catching fire yet again.
“This is happening for the third time. Right now, difficulty in breathing is a temporary issue. Somebody has to take responsibility for this issue and step down. If this is urban development then KJ George has to resign or one of the BDA commissioners of KLCDAC. Somebody has to resign, somebody has to take accountability and step down,” said Seema Sharma, a resident of Bellandur.
Opposition demands Minister’s resignation
Union Minister of Human Resources Development, Prakash Javadekar, said, "What we are seeing in Bellandur lake now is a man-made disaster, caused due to total inaction for 50 years. The Bengaluru city once known as the City of Lakes has become City of Lakes on Fire. Lakes actually douse the fire, but here, lakes are on fire because sewage is being dumped into the lakes. Earlier, when the lake caught fire, I visited as then Environment Minister. We prepared a draft plan to tackle it. But things haven’t improved … It is apathy that has converted this beautiful city to this."
BJP leader Malavika Avinash also demanded the resignation of KJ George by questioning what the government had done to fix the issue. “It would be graceful if he (George) steps down. He has to take responsibility since Congress has been in power for five years and has done nothing to fix this issue. Untreated sewage continues to enter the lake,” she said. Other BJP leaders took to Twitter to criticise the Congress government for failing to address the issue.